Symptoms of Vitamin B12 Deficiency: Vegetarians Take Notice

Vegetarian Diets May be Lacking in Vitamin B12

If you’ve made the decision to forego all animal products and have become a strict vegetarian or vegan, you may be lacking in vitamin B12. This essential vitamin isn’t found in plant products, so it’s difficult to get enough in your diet if you’re not eating any animal products.

Vitamin B12 deficiency may take a while to surface, as it sometimes takes months or even years to deplete the body’s resources of this vitamin. Since the body stores fairly large amounts of B12 in the liver, deficiencies will surface at different time lines in strict vegetarians depending on an individual’s metabolism. The higher the amount of fiber consumed by an individual, the faster that person metabolizes B12, so strict vegetarians and vegans may deplete their resources more quickly than others. Children who don’t eat animal products are at an increased risk because their reserves are low due to their age. Their bodies will become depleted much faster than adults.

Vegetarians and especially vegans should consider supplementing their diet with either vitamin B12 supplements or fortified foods, such as soy milk, fortified cereals, or nutritional yeast. The FDA daily value for vitamin B12 is 6 micrograms. B12 is very low in toxicity, probably because it not absorbed very readily by the body in high amounts. Up to 1,000mcg are given to treat pernicious anemia without any toxic effects.

Symptoms of Vitamin B12 Deficiency

Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency are pretty unpleasant. Pernicious anemia, fatigue, weakness, loss of appetite, poor memory, as well as confusion and neurological problems, like tingling in the hands and feet are some of the most common symptoms. It is very important to correct any B12 deficiency, because nerve damage can be irreversible if it’s not caught in the early stages. Fertility may become affected too, since B12 deficiencies can result in a low sperm count.

Resources

1. Office of Dietary Supplements: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/vitaminB12.asp#h6

2. Vegan Health: https://www.veganhealth.org

3. The Weston A. Price Foundation: https://www.westonaprice.org/basicnutrition/vitaminb12.html